The most successful ecommerce and retail businesses are metrics obsessed.
Virtually every marketing and business decision in these organizations is guided by data.
After all, if you can’t measure something, you have little chance of improving it.
How to Measure Ecommerce Success
To properly measure ecommerce success, you need to have 3 main goals in mind:
- Selecting the right ecommerce key performance indicators (KPIs) and then tracking/measuring their corresponding metrics.
- Ensuring that you have an analytics system in place to measure all of these metrics as accurately as possible.
- Setting proper benchmarks for your ecommerce KPI list to track success.
This guide is structured to cover the most vital ecommerce metrics at each stage of the sales funnel of an ecommerce business and their customers’ lifecycle.
1. Selecting the right ecommerce KPIs.
To get the right ecommerce KPIs, you have to ask the right questions.
The right questions are based on a few factors:
- What is your industry?
- What stage is your business in? Start-up, growth, established?
- What are your overall business goals for this stage?
These questions, and ones that will inevitably branch off from these, will help you discover the metrics that make the most sense for your company and its specific goals.
Tracking and measuring the right KPIs can improve your business and marketing decisions.
This helps you avoid decision paralysis from too much information.
A few example ecommerce KPIs to consider as your OMM are:
- Customer Lifetime Value (CLV): The estimated amount of total purchases a customer will make with your business over the lifetime they are with your brand.
- Cost Per Acquisition (CPA): This is the amount you pay for a customer acquisition (lead or sale, this is defined by you) based on your marketing efforts.
- Return on Ad Spend (ROAS): This your revenue generated from your marketing efforts divided by your marketing costs.
- Value-per-Visit: This is total website revenue divided by total website visits, and is helpful in measuring the effectiveness your various marketing channels.
2. Proper analytics tracking.
Google Analytics is the go-to tool for tracking website performance. This is true for ecommerce sites as well.
To set up Google Analytics tracking on your site, copy your Google Analytics ecommerce tracking code found in Admin > View > Ecommerce Settings.
3. Setting up proper benchmarks for your ecommerce KPI list.
Benchmarks are vital to your business’ growth.
They provide insight into what is working, what isn’t, and your growth rate for your KPIs.
You can benchmark your key metrics in six easy steps.
How To Set Ecommerce Benchmarks:
- Step 1: Determine your long term goals.
- Step 2: Determine how your site is currently performing.
- Step 3: Identify which areas you’ll focus on for measurement.
- Step 4: Determine the correct metrics and KPIs to track success.
- Step 5: Set your benchmarking schedule.
- Step 6: Work, measure, adjust, repeat.
Understanding the Customer Stages
Customers have different intents as they move through your buying cycle.
Understanding their intent in each phase will help you select the right key metrics to measure and grow your business.
1. Product Discovery.
In the brand discovery stage of the funnel, the focus of all your marketing efforts is really on generating awareness and stimulating the realization of a want of your brand/product(s) in the market you target.
The key question the metrics you track will answer in this stage is:
How many people have come across our brand or the line of products we sell?
In other words, you are tracking brand awareness, impressions, and eyeballs.
One caveat here is the assumption that your marketing is focused on your target audience.
If it isn’t and there is no deliberate targeting in your marketing. This is a vanity metric.
Marketing in the consideration stage of the funnel is focused on convincing potential and existing customers to engage with your brand, with the end goal of potentially purchasing your product(s).
The key question at this stage you want your metrics to answer is:
What portion of people that have come across our brand are engaging with our brand?
This is where you should be tracking and analyzing metrics related to inbound traffic to your store, email, and social media engagement.
At the conversion stage of your funnel, you need to track and analyze actions that typically lead to a sale (micro-conversions) as well as establish standard metrics like revenue, transactions, and conversion rates (CVR).
Online retailers can take this to the next level by diving into rich user data that lets ecommerce businesses track more advanced KPIs at a behavioral level.
For example, transactions are expected to be made by the highest engaging customers and visitors to your site.
Understanding the these metrics and KPIs will help you make better sense of your sales and revenue data — and help you spot trends to convert more visitors into buyers.
Repeat business is a critical pillar to growing and scaling an online retail business.
According to Bain & Company, a 5% increase in customer retention rate will result in a 25% to 95% increase in profits.
The advocacy stage analyzes word of mouth and referral marketing stats.
Having existing customers recommend your ecommerce brand to their family and friends can be a low cost, yet highly effective means of acquiring new customers.
User generated content is a great way to allow your customers to advocate for your brand. This can be done through video and photo content or leaving reviews.
In other words, engage with your customer base seeking honest feedback and showcase how they engage with your products.
This kind of social proof is more valuable to new customers.
9 Metrics to Help Grow Your Online Business
There are innumerable metrics your brand can measure to evaluate success.
But, you also must weigh your time spent as part of the equation when determining if these are the proper business KPIs to focus on.
You can’t measure inactivity, and staring at a dashboard all day gets nothing done.
- Your brand’s online visibility.
- Online and offline impressions.
- Facebook & Instagram’s ‘reach’ metric.
- YouTube and other video hosting platform impressions.
- Google AdWords and Bing ad impressions.
- Organic impressions via Google Search Console.
- Influencers and partner reach.
- TV, Podcast and media advertising reach.
- Onsite traffic metrics.
- Organic traffic metrics.
- Email engagement metrics.
- Social media engagement metrics.
- Number of online transactions.
- Average order value (AOV) of customers.
- Ecommerce micro-conversions.
- Micro to macro conversion ratio.
- More specific sales data.
- Number of visits to sale.
- Sales conversion rates.
- Analyze micro conversions.
- Shopping cart abandonment rate.
- CPA or Cost Per Acquisition.
- Average order size.
- Percentage of mobile visits.
- Ecommerce purchase metrics.
- Average customer lifetime value.
- Ecommerce churn rate.
- Net promoter score.
- Track product and seller reviews.
1. Your brand’s online visibility (product discovery KPI).
This is, in my opinion, the most important marketing metric to track from day 1 and then all through the lifespan of your business.
The reason is simple:
People searching for your brand are more likely to either convert as customers or are returning customers.
To accurately track this metric, use the following sources to capture brand name search volume:
- Google AdWords: create a brand name search campaign and track impressions (not clicks) for phrase and exact match terms. The only drawback to this method is that you need to have a budget for Google AdWords. If you do have a budget, it is in my opinion the most accurate means of tracking brand name search (at least via Google).
- Google Search Console: check the search analytics report in Google Search Console under:
- Search Traffic > Search Analytics > Queries
- The check the ‘Impressions’ checkbox.
- Do this once a month and remember to change the date cohort to a full month.
- Google Keyword Planner: run a search for your brand name on Google keyword planner on a monthly basis.
- If brand name search is on an upward trend, then your marketing just might be working. You are definitely reaching more people.
You should also try and map specific publicity campaigns with brand name searches.
As an example, if you engaged with a group of influencers over a specific month, you may want to backtrack on brand name search during the month of the campaign to see if there was any lift.
You can organize this effectively well in Google Analytics via Custom Channel Grouping.
Example of Google’s Default Channel Organization.
Example Custom Channel Organization in Google Analytics.
2. Online and offline impressions (product discovery KPI).
All advertising platforms you utilize will provide metrics on impressions (or cost-per-impression), i.e. the number of times your ads are served to their audience.
Here is a brief list of channels and the key impression metrics.
3. Facebook & Instagram’s ‘reach’ metric (product discovery KPI).
Facebook measures unique impressions with the ‘reach’ metric.
Facebook’s reach metric is the number of people that have seen your ads at least once.
The key point to note here is that the reach metric is different from impressions, which may include multiple views of your ads by the same people.
Other Facebook metrics related to impressions you want to pay attention to are:
- Cost per 1,000 people reached: The average cost to reach 1,000 people.
- Impressions: The number of times your ads were viewed.
- CPM (Cost per 1,000 Impression): The average cost for 1,000 impressions.
- Frequency: The average number of times each person saw your ad.
Note that the above is for paid Facebook advertising.
In order to track total number of people that have generated impressions in both organic and paid Facebook posts, use the reach metric in the Facebook Insights report.
4. YouTube and other video hosting platform impressions (product discovery KPI).
The YouTube impression metric you want to pay attention to is ‘Views.’
This will apply to all other video hosting platforms that you actively market on such as Facebook videos or Vimeo.
Also ensure that you understand the time duration a video is watched in order to be classified as a view on across all platforms.
5. Google AdWords and Bing ad impressions (product discovery KPI).
In AdWords and Bing Ads, you want to pay attention to the ‘Impressions’ metric, which is the number of times your ads are shown on search result pages or the display network on both platforms.
In AdWords, pay attention to the following metrics:
- Search Impression Share: Your impression share strictly for impressions generated through the Search Network
- Display Impression Share: Your impression share strictly for impressions generated through the Display Network.
6. Organic impressions via Google Search Console (product discovery KPI).
Pay attention to the ‘Total Impressions’ metric on Google search console on a monthly basis.
It gives you an idea on the number of times your website was served as a result on Google’s organic search result, serving as a good KPI for overall reach.
If your reach far outweighs your traffic, it’s time to think about revising your title structure to encourage more click through.
7. Influencers and partner reach (product discovery KPI).
When reaching out to potential media partners and influencers, you will need to better understand their audience reach and readership numbers (for bloggers).
Ask for details about the number of:
- Monthly readers (total and organic).
- As well as the size of their email list.
On your own, research their social media followings and how engaged their audiences are across platforms.
For instance, they may have a large Twitter following, but they don’t get many retweets. It may be better to leverage your partnership through their Instagram platform, instead.
8. TV, Podcast, and media advertising reach (product discovery KPI).
If you advertise on TV, want to sponsor a podcast or media, you will negotiate on the basis of the ‘Reach’ metric, i.e. how many people are likely going to view your commercial.
Remember that relevancy is just as important (if not more important) than reach.
9. Onsite traffic metrics (consideration KPI).
These are the most important on-site traffic key performance indicators you should measure on a monthly basis.
These metrics (plus many others!) can be found in Google Analytics, the easiest way to establish measurement on your website.
There are many other great web analytics tools out there that offer comparable metrics, though these other platforms sometimes call them by different names. For example, Sessions in Google Analytics goes by Visits in other platforms.
- Sessions: When tracking website sessions, remember that a single user can open multiple sessions on various devices or browsers. Sessions typically end after 30 minutes of inactivity. All interactions by a visitor on your website within a given timeframe such as page views, events, social interactions, and ecommerce transactions will register as a single session.
- Users: In Google Analytics, the Users metric does not necessarily equate to individual users or people. It is actually a cookie set by each visitor’s browser. So, if a customer of yours logged in from her phone and then her desktop computer, each session will register as two users. The walk-around to this anomaly is setting up Session Unification by integrating logged in user data with Google Analytics.
- Pages/Session: The ‘pages/session’ metric is the average number of pages viewed per session.
- Bounce Rate: Bounce rate is the percentage of single page visits (or web sessions).
- Average Session Duration: Average session duration is total duration of all sessions (in seconds) / number of sessions. You want to track this metric alongside bounce rate to understand how engaging your store it. You also want to use segments such as new visitors vs returning visitors.
- New Users: A visitor who did not have Google Analytics cookies when they hit the first page in this visit. If a visitor deletes their cookies and comes back to the site, the visitor will be counted as a new visitor.
10. Organic traffic metrics (consideration KPI).
If a significant amount of inbound traffic to your ecommerce store comes from Google, then you should be tracking these Google Search Console metrics on a monthly basis.
- Clicks: Total count of clicks from Google search results pages (SERPs) to your website. Track it alongside the Impressions metric and compare with Google Analytics metrics such as Sessions and Unique Pageviews.
- Average CTR: Average click-through rate is the click count divided by the impression count. Use it to gauge how well your title tags and meta descriptions tags drive searches on Google to your site. A significant discrepancy indicates the opportunity to optimize for click-through.
- Avg. Position: This is average ranking of your website’s URLs for the Google search queries.
I track all of the above metrics on a monthly basis to better understand the direction each store I manage is headed, traffic and engagement-wise.
11. Email engagement metrics (consideration KPI).
These are the top six email engagement KPIs for ecommerce sites that your email marketing team should report to you on a monthly basis.
- Email list growth rate: This is the rate at which your email list is growing. It is calculated by your total number of new subscribers minus unsubscribers, divided by the total number of email address on your list.
- Email bounce rate: This is the percentage of undelivered emails from your total emails sent that could not be successfully delivered to the recipient’s inbox.
- Open rate: This is the percentage of email recipients who open a given email. It is worth noting that while open rate is an important metric, you should also focus on optimizing click-through rates.
- Email click-through rate: This is the percentage of email recipients who clicked on links in emails. It is calculated by:(Total clicks OR unique clicks ÷ Number of delivered emails) * 100. For example: 1,500 total clicks ÷ 75,000 delivered emails * 100 = 2% click through rate.
- Email Conversion Rate: This is the portion of email recipients that completed a purchase after clicking through links in your email campaigns. It is calculated by: (Number of sales from emails ÷ Number of total emails delivered) * 100. For example: 800 sales ÷ 75,000 total email delivered * 100 = 1% conversion rate
- Unsubscribes: Checking your monthly unsubscribe rate is helpful for calculating your overall list growth rate. You should also track unengaged subscribers alongside Unsubscribes and consider removing them from your list.
12. Social media engagement metrics (consideration KPI).
Social media metrics can provide a lot of value to your ecommerce company. These are the top social media engagement KPIs you should track on a regular basis:
- Likes per post: “Likes” is a catch-all metric I am using for people that have upvoted your social media posts. These will come in the form of Likes, thumbs ups, favorites or +1’s. To calculate it, you will need to collate likes on each social media platform and divide it by the number of posts on the individual platform.
- Shares per post: “Shares” is a catch-all metric for “shares,” “retweets” and “repins.” This metric is indicative of the average number of times posts are shared over a given amount of time.
- Comments per post: “Comments” is a catch-all metric for mentions and comments to your social media posts. This metric is a gauge of how much of a community your brand is garnering on social media.
- Clicks per post: The clicks per post metric measures link click-throughs from social media posts over a given period of time. To calculate this metric, collate the number of clicks from your social media posts over a specific period (typically over a month) and then divide it by the number of published social media posts over the same time period.
13. Number of online transactions (conversion KPI).
Tracking the actual number of transactions, not just total revenue, is important for calculating AOV (3d, below) and understanding how customers interact with your online store.
14. Average order value (AOV) of customers (conversion KPI).
This is total sales divided by the number of transactions.
If you have a wide category of products it might be worth going deeper on this metric by better understanding the average order value in each category.
15. Ecommerce micro-conversions (conversion KPI).
Micro conversions are predetermined steps that typically occur before a sale. Here are two of the most popular types of micro-conversions:
- Email collection: Via on-site subscription boxes or behavioral triggered pop ups
- Ordering samples: This is particularly common with voluminous products such as furniture (fabric samples) or flooring (material samples).
In Google Analytics and other web data platforms, you can set conversion goals to measure both micro and macro conversions.
16. Micro to macro conversion ratio (conversion KPI).
Ecommerce teams should track the relationship between micro conversions to macro conversions (sales/revenue).
Using an online furniture retailer that sells sofas as an example, let’s say they are able to, on average, convert 40 out of every 100 shoppers that request a fabric sample for sofas they sell.
They will be able to target their efforts into either increasing overall fabric sample requests or improving the sample-to-order ratio.
17. More specific sales data (conversion KPI).
Since the total amount of revenue generated is very obvious, you need to go deeper on sales data by digging into:
- Sales totals generated by channel, e.g. search, social media channels, email, direct, referrals, TV
- Sales totals for each category in your product catalog
- Sales generated by each promo code
18. Number of visits to sale (conversion KPI).
You will want to set a quarterly or biannual benchmark on how many visits it takes on average for new customers to make their first purchase.
19. Sales conversion rates (conversion KPI).
This is the total number of sales divided by the total number of sessions to your store.
Understanding this number is critical to determining how much traffic is required to generating your target sales.
That said, just like your sales data, you need to more granularly understand conversion rates.
Here are key ways to dissect your conversion rate metric:
- Set conversion rate by channel: e.g. AdWords, SEO, Facebook, etc
- Set conversion rate by category of products: Some categories may have higher conversions that others
- Set conversion rate by campaign: As an example, if you are working with affiliates or influencers
20. Analyze micro conversions (conversion KPI).
Micro conversions, the steps that typically occur before a sale, are critical in the buying funnel for many businesses.
Calculate conversion rates for micro conversions by dividing the total number of the specific micro conversion (their goal completions in Google Analytics) by sessions and multiplying the value by 100.
This way, you know what kind of micro conversions to expect with a varying volumes of traffic.
It is also a leading indicator of cart abandonment on your site, which is a low hanging fruit for many online retailers.
21. Shopping cart abandonment rate (conversion KPI).
When your conversion rate is low, you need to understand how many visitors had an inclination to buy.
To do this, you’ll want to examine your store’s cart abandonment.
This metric indicates the percentage of visitors who added products to their shopping cart but did not complete the checkout process.
The lower your cart abandonment rate, the better.
As a quick example, your shopping cart abandonment is 75% if 75 out of 100 visitors with a cart leave without buying.
Cart abandonment is the closest you come to earning real customers before they leave your site. Adding to the cart typically indicates an intent to purchase.
The fact that they leave without buying means you lost potential customers. It gets especially bad if you paid a lot of money to get these visitors to your store.
22. CPA or Cost Per Acquisition (conversion KPI).
CPA is a critical marketing and business metric, informing your bottom line and helping to measure the effectiveness of your paid media efforts.
Studying CPA by channel helps you understand what channels and campaigns to invest more budget and time into, and determine the poorest performing channels that should be scaled back or discontinued.
Startup ecommerce businesses need a monthly CPA dashboard as a matter of survival, and to wisely spend limited marketing budgets.
- Direct sales conversions from a channel i.e. based on a last (click) interaction
- Assisted conversions based on a chain of multiple visits that eventually led to sale
I will also total up both to quantify the value of a specific channel.
I look at the CPA numbers and make hard decisions to either stop marketing or optimize campaigns on channels that are deemed unaffordable due to their high CPA.
23. Average order size (conversion KPI).
You know what the value of a visitor is, but what about the value of an average sale?
Divide the revenue by the number of transactions and you’ll understand how much each customer delivers to the bottom line.
Looking to boost your average order size? Consider offering free shipping at a certain dollar amount or volume discounts.
24. Percentage of mobile visits (conversion KPI).
If your website isn’t optimized for mobile or if you’re not tracking traffic from your mobile site, you’re in trouble.
Mobile growth continues to explode
25. Ecommerce purchase metrics (retention KPI).
Here are the key loyalty metrics that you can use as primary KPIs to evaluate how your business retains customers:
- Repeat purchases rate: This key metric shows the portion of repeat customers from your overall customer base. It is a primary retention marketing metric and is calculated by dividing the total number of customers that have purchased more than once by total number of customers.
- Purchase frequency: This is the proportion of customers that have shopped more than once over a specified period of time. While the repeat purchase rate looks at repeat purchases over a lifetime, it is important to base the purchase frequency metric over a period of time, which will be typically 12 months.
- Order gap analysis: This metric shows the average time lapse between two purchases from a single customer. It helps inform email marketing automation efforts so that you automatically remind customers to repurchase. Time between purchases will vary across retail verticals. It is calculated by dividing 365 by your purchase frequency metric. The output would be an average number of days between purchases.
26. Average customer lifetime value (retention KPI).
Customer lifetime value (CLV, CLTV, LTV or LCV) is the expected revenue generated by future sales interactions with a customer.
Customer Lifetime Value is cornerstone metric in retention marketing. It is simply the average total amount spent by each customer over their lifetime.
It is so important because it determines how much you can potentially spend to acquire new customers.
As a rule of the thumb: Average Customer Lifetime Value > Average Customer Acquisition Cost
- Average order value
- Purchase frequency
- Time period (this is variable and dependent on your business)
What question most ecommerce marketers ask is:
“How long will customers shop with us?”
On average, you might be looking at three years, but it will be best to assess this on a case by case basis.
27. Ecommerce churn rate (retention KPI).
If your LTV is low, it could be that many of your customers buy once and never return.
This is measured by what is referred to as “churn.”
Churn is the percentage of your customers who do not come back to your site.
As we have seen, to ensure a high profit, it’s important to influence your customers to keep coming back to purchase.
That means you want your churn to be low so that once you acquire a customer, they continue to come back and purchase again and again.
Lower churn means higher LTV and a healthier business overall.
28. Net promoter score (advocacy KPI).
Net Promoter Score (NPS) is a very simple survey that measures how likely a customer is to recommend your brand to a friend.
It is sent out to a representative sample of your customer-base and asks them how likely they will recommend your brand on a 1 – 10 scale (with 10 meaning highly likely to recommend).
- people who give a 9 or 10 score are called promoters;
- those who score 7 or 8 are neutral; and
- everyone else is a detractor.
Your goal is to make your average NPS across all customers as high as possible. It’s an ongoing measure of how well your customer referral program will perform.
29. Track product and seller reviews (advocacy KPI).
One other very important customer satisfaction gauge is seller reviews and in-store product reviews. These should be tracked and segmented monthly.
Alerts should be set for average and below average reviews with immediate follow up by your customer experience team.